Saturday’s Serie A action gets underway at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza as pacesetters Inter entertain relegation-battling Hellas Verona in a lopsided clash. The home side couldn’t have hoped for a more favorable opposition to start the new calendar year as we look at the match preview.
Inter stuttered toward the end of 2023. Not only did they relinquish a two-year dominance in the Coppa Italia courtesy of a penalty shoot-out defeat to Bologna, but they drew 1-1 against newly-promoted Genoa in their last Serie A outing. Despite those setbacks, Simone Inzaghi’s men came into 2024 as the league leaders.
However, there’s hardly room for complacency. With second-placed Juventus breathing down their necks, lagging only two points behind, Inter can ill-afford to take this encounter lightly. Verona’s visit to Meazza is what the doctor ordered for Nerazzurri, considering they’ve never lost a home encounter against Gialloblu on home turf (W22, D11).
Verona’s long-standing struggles in Lombardy are the least of Marco Baroni’s problems. The under-pressure Verona manager is walking a tightrope after a disheartening 1-0 home defeat to rock-bottom Salernitana at the tail-end of 2023 drew his side to the periphery of the dreaded relegation zone.
Indeed, there’s nothing but goal difference to separate Verona from 18th-placed Cagliari at the start of this round. Baroni’s future is in the balance, but not even the most optimistic Gialloblu fans place high expectations ahead of the troubled Veneto outfit against arguably the division’s most formidable opposition.
As mentioned above, Inter have reigned supreme in this fixture, but they’ve been particularly dominant in its recent editions. Inzaghi’s men have won their last six home league matches against Verona via a combined score of 10-1, with the visitors’ most recent strike at Meazza dating back to November 2019.
Another shutout is well on the cards, considering Inter have won their last four home league outings by 2+ goals ‘to nil.’ If that’s not comforting enough, the Meazza faithful can draw further confidence from Nerazzurri’s‘ typically flying starts to a new calendar year. They’re undefeated in their opening league game of a calendar year since 2014, winning the last four in a row.
The most noteworthy takeaway from Verona’s disappointing loss to Salernitana is that they failed to register a shot on target in a Serie A fixture for the first time since September 2021. Considering they didn’t do so against the division’s worst defense, it’s hard to expect them to end a three-game scoring duck at Meazza.
Another similar performance would probably put the final nail in Baroni’s coffin as Verona’s manager. But since he’s lost his four previous managerial clashes against Inter, he can start packing his bags even before the kick-off. Adding to this sentiment, the visitors have only returned two points from their last seven Serie A travels (D2, L5).
Barring long-term absentee Juan Cuadrado, Inter should have the remainder of their squad fit and ready for their curtain-raising 2024 fixture. Hakan Calhanoglu is the only doubt after captain Lautaro Martinez overcame a minor fitness problem that kept him on the sidelines down the final stretch of 2023.
As for Verona, Ajdin Hrustic and Suat Serdar are still unavailable for selection. Captain Davide Faraoni has recently struggled with an injury but has made the matchday squad.
Inter vs Hellas Verona Potential Lineups
Inter (3-5-2): Yann Sommer; Yann Bisseck, Francesco Acerbi, Alessandro Bastoni; Matteo Darmian, Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Federico Dimarco; Marcus Thuram, Lautaro Martinez.
Hellas Verona (4-2-3-1): Lorenzo Montipo; Jackson Tchatchoua, Pawel Dawidowicz, Giangiacomo Magnani, Josh Doig; Ondrej Duda, Michael Folorunsho; Jordi Mboula, Tomas Suslov, Darko Lazovic; Milan Djuric.
Inter vs Hellas Verona Prediction
Anything other than the home side’s routine victory would be an upset of epic proportions. Inter have gone from strength to strength in this type of contest this season, and with Martinez back to the fold, they ought to kick 2024 off with a stylish win.
Prediction: Inter Win
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